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Five tips to help you achieve your project management career goals

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Project management career goals are vital to your progression. However, many of us struggle to set goals or find that we are not achieving the ones we set.

Are you only putting in goals for the sake of closing off your annual performance development review (PDR) – or to formalise the close-off of your year-end performance review or the start of your new PDR year? Do you never look at them until your next review? I was certainly guilty of that in the past.

We need to take responsibility for our career plan by creating goals that are meaningful and not just inputting standardised ones that we cannot measure.

Setting a specified timeframe or an actual date as a deadline for goals is important, because it helps you to monitor whether you are on track. Using SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) criteria is a great way to help you define your goals.

That’s enough about setting goals – how can we actually achieve them? Here are five tips that work for me.

1. Make the most of your PDRs

Use your PDR sessions wisely. Have open and honest conversations with your line manager. Schedule regular catch-ups so that you can share your achievements – shout about your successes so your manager hears about what you have done brilliantly. These meetings are also a time to reflect on and highlight any struggles you may be facing, so that you can get guidance or support.

Also identify and share any training needs that can help you achieve your goals and objectives. This could comprise on-the-job coaching or more formal training courses to raise your competency level in a particular area of project management.

2. Attend CPD sessions

Attending continuing professional development (CPD) sessions can help you boost your confidence, gain knowledge in new areas and network to build up your wider industry contacts.

You could grab a sandwich and listen to a CPD webinar in your lunchbreak or on the train. Many of the APM ones are available on demand. I tend to use quiet time on the weekends or after work to just switch off and listen to a CPD recording or even read a blog. It’s a time when your brain can really absorb information without you realising.

3. A mentor can help fast-forward your career aspirations

A project management mentor can help to guide you through your career and establish a way to achieve your goals by providing support in lots of different ways. You could choose someone in a role you aspire to have – they have done what it takes to get there, so are best placed to guide you.

With your mentor, you can share your stumbling blocks and they can guide you through these situations or help you think of solutions as you are developing, so that you can overcome these obstacles yourself. All you need is a steer in the right direction.

4. Create a career development plan

A career development plan doesn’t have to be fancy; it can just be a timeline of dates and positions you would like to get to.

Carve out 10 to 15 minutes once a week to reflect on what is important to you and make a note each time you get closer to achieving your goals. Keeping a diary of events is helpful too, so you can review any actions, notes or support you need.

Another good starting point is to ask yourself: where do I see myself in five years’ time? This is often one of the questions you will face in an interview situation. The more ambitious your five-year plan, the better it will serve as impetus to get to your two-year or six-month month goal plan.

For example, if you are currently an Assistant Project Manager, your five-year goal could be to become a Senior Project Manager. Saying it may sound unrealistic or unachievable, but once you have the indicators or smaller goals to help you achieve it, the goal becomes more realistic.

5. Use APM resources to help you

There are lots of resources from APM that can help. If you haven’t already, apply to become a member. Membership gives you access to the full array of online material, access to the project management community, and CPD events that you can register to attend. An immense amount of knowledge is shared by APM online, and also through publications such as Project journal.


Changing my career path from financial services to the rail industry, where I started out in the project management team in rail design for an engineering consulting firm, was daunting at first. However, I have found that the five tips above really helped me to drive my career forwards. The simplest tip I can share with you is to believe in yourself.

I hope this article has motivated you to drive your career forwards too.

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